Over 30 organisations have called for the Seriti commission into the 1999 arms deal to be dissolved, the Right2Know (R2K) Campaign said on Monday.
“In light of recent events at the arms procurement commission, including most recently the withdrawal of key whistleblowers from the process, more than 30 local human rights organisations have made the following joint call for real arms deal accountability,” R2K spokesperson Murray Hunter said in a statement.
The organisations called for the commission to be dissolved, a full criminal investigation to be launched and for those implicated in wrongdoing to be prosecuted.
“The Seriti commission of inquiry into the arms deal represented a crucial opportunity to uncover the truth, but it has become highly unlikely that the commission will fulfil its mandate.”
“This is part of a longer term effort on our part, that the commission is not doing its job, is a waste of money and should be reviewed completely,” said R2K Gauteng co-ordinator Dale McKinley.
A group of 15 R2K members demonstrated outside the department of justice in Pretoria on Monday. Their posters read “Seriti commission is a white wash”, “Let the truth be told” and “What are you hiding?” A much larger group would demonstrate outside the commission on October 20, he said.
The organisations’ statement expressed concern that the commission had refused to make large amounts of evidence public; that certain crucial documents that pointed to corruption had been declared inadmissible; and that the commission had failed to gain the public’s trust after six senior commission staff members resigned.
“The commission has failed to call witnesses from the arms companies, from the list of known or suspected middlemen, or from any of the foreign law enforcement agencies that have investigated parts of the arms deal,” said Hunter.
The organisations also expressed concern at the commission’s ruling which prevented witnesses presenting evidence which had not been authored themselves.
“For these reasons we have lost faith in the Seriti commission’s capacity to reveal the truth behind the arms deal. It has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.”
Local organisations that supported this call included Corruption Watch, Lawyers for Human Rights, Public Service Accountability Monitor and the Institute for Security Studies.
Eight international organisations also supported the call. – Sapa